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Literature and Weak Thought

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Andrzej Zawadzki

This book is a reconstruction and presentation of the fundamental assumptions of the so-called weak thought, as elaborated mainly by the Italian hermeneutical philosopher Gianni Vattimo and the Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica in his ontology. Both Noica and Vattimo focus on all that is existentially fragile, deficient, crippled or defective. The way in which weak being manifests itself can be best expressed by using the concept of the trace. Some motifs of weak thought serve to reinterpret certain fundamental concepts of poetics, firstly, the concept of mimesis, treated here as a kind of tracing, and secondly, the concept of the textual subject as a trace. The book also describes these tendencies in modern literature in which the intuition of weak being has most fully expressed itself. In general terms, this intuition is that of a reality that has lost its substantiality and essentiality. This intuition is most frequently expressed by the motif of the trace in its various different meanings: as the imprint, the remnant, the sign-message.

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Preface

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Literature and Weak Thought consists of four parts. In the first part I reconstruct the fundamental philosophical assumptions of so-called “weak thought,” which has been shaped in particular by two thinkers – Constantin Noica and Gianni Vattimo – both of whom remain little known and seldom discussed in Poland. In spite of various differences between their philosophical styles, historical experiences and political views, these two thinkers are linked by a characteristic inclination that in my opinion might be regarded as the essential feature of modern philosophical, artistic and literary sensibilities. This inclination involves focusing particular attention on all that is existentially fragile, deficient, crippled or defective, as well as the formation of a point of departure for philosophical and cultural reflections on the basis of these areas of experience. From weak thought I also adopt the idea that the way in which weak being, or perhaps “weakened” being, manifests itself can be best expressed by using the concept of the trace (just as in colloquial language we speak of “trace” quantities of certain substances). In the second part, on literary theory, I propose the employment of motifs from weak thought – particularly the idea of the trace – in an attempt to reinterpret certain fundamental concepts of poetics. Firstly, there is the concept of mimesis, or imitation, treated here as a kind of tracing, with particular emphasis placed precisely on the question of the trace.1 Secondly, I address the concept of the textual subject as trace, or track, with all the meanings inherent in...

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